Nursery Design, Recommendations + Must-Haves

written by: Lo Mansfield, RN, MSN, CLC

When I started planning a nursery for my third baby, much was the same as it had been the prior two pregnancies. I wanted this little to have their own space, something fresh and new since the prior two girls. We again did not know the sex of the baby, so gender neutral was the name of the game. And because this was my third baby, I was also dancing the line between wanting some new things and knowing that I needed to be practical as well – it’s pretty hard to justify a brand new chair or crib when it very likely is only going to be used once!

Our nursery is right at the front of our home. We’re pretty sure it is meant to be an office, but it is also the perfect spot for a baby, as it is the closest room to the master. The location of the room, as well as door that opens right into our foyer, made me want a space that was a bit more grown up; when all the nursery doors are open, it feels as if the space is actually a continuation of the main living room.

When I think about nursery spaces (especially as I’ve done this three times now) I always consider a couple of things:

  • Function: Does the space make sense for how you will actually use it? Can you reach the diaper wipes easily? Is the crib in the best spot for diminished noise? Is your chair or glider in a spot where you feel it’d be easy to get to in the middle of the night?
  • Focal Point: This does NOT have to be something massive or impressive. It’s often the crib, but it doesn’t have to be! I actually love the built ins and bench in this room – they are definitely my favorite wall of the room.
  • Palette: It doesn’t matter what colors you choose – but choose something! And if you’ve chosen a focal point, even something small or simple like a print hanging over the crib, consider pulling your palette from whatever colors are there.
  • Lighting: While I think it is super fun to hang a pretty main light, guess what? You won’t want to turn that on in the middle of the night! What other appropriate lighting is in the space for nursing, diaper changes, bedtime books, etc?
  • Texture/Textiles: If you want curtains, consider picking them before paint colors! And I also think texture (in a chair or pillow) is always a good thing as it hide stains (ahem…breastmilk) really well.
  • Repurposing: Guess what? Baby doesn’t care if everything you get is brand new and/or expensive. I have done Craigslist so many times, I love reusing bins and baskets and lights and frames (hello spray paint), and you probably have stuff around your house (jars, cans, old books, baskets, etc.) that you can use in the nursery for storage, display, etc. Look around before running out and buying new.

For me, gender neutral meant totally neutral this time. The walls are Benjamin Moore Gray Owl (50%). It’s actually the color of nearly every bedroom in our house; it’s a great neutral as it can pull warm or cool and/or look grey or green depending on how you design around it. This was already the color of the nursery so I was more than happy to leave it (and not have to repaint between all of those built-ins)!

The crib is the IKEA SNIGLAR. It is so affordable and we’ve used it for multiple babies. I love those clean lines and it does convert to a toddler bed, so it really is such a steal for the price. I did get a new rug this time and I am so glad. The texture in it makes it both soft and hides a ton of stains. If you’re on top of hardwoods like we are, I highly recommend a good rug pad. Your feet will thank you.

I DIY’d the canvas hanging above the crib – someday I’ll get around to painting his name on there (like the picture above). If you are not a DIYer you can absolutely find them on Etsy. They’re a bit pricey and I love doing things with my hands and my sewing machine, so it was totally worth it for me to do this project myself.

Ahh…those built-ins. Aren’t the heavenly? I know lots of mamas don’t like the crazy colors of children’s books, but I just think every nursery needs some. I always display mine in an ombre pattern – something about it brings me joy. Nearly everything on our built-ins has been repurposed or spray painted multiple times (or used for all of my babies). I like having stacks of linens around for burps, swaddles and messes. Baskets can hold basically anything (or nothing and just look cute). Make use of the back wall space inside of shelves too – this frees up space on the actual shelf for other things.

We did invest in a new bassinet this baby – this is the Plum and Sparrow Vegan Moses Basket and Original White Rocking Bassinet Stand. We’d previously had the Rock n Play and got rid of it during the recall so this was a fun new purchase.

My favorite purchase (my splurge) is this gorgeous Sleepytime Rocking Chair. It is hard to catch on sale, but many retailers offer 10% off for new customers so I was able to save some money in that way. I know the ivory color can seem like a poor choice, but the boucle texture hides everything. They also have a ton of other color selections and wood selections for the rocking legs. I absolutely love this chair. I HIGHLY recommend some sort of pouf or ottoman for your feet. It can be super valuable in the early swollen postpartum weeks – and I really can’t do without one while I rock my babes at night. This one from Target is the prettiest cognac color, big enough to sit on (or jump on for my toddlers), and can be refilled if it ever feels too flat.

Lastly, this dresser may just be one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever gotten off Craigslist. This mid-mod dresser is missing a handle. It’s scratched. The drawers stick a bit. But, I just love that it tells decades of stories – and now my babes’ stories can be told too. It was also $100 – so much cheaper than buying the same sort of thing new – and such better quality. I think a mirror is a must in a nursery – babe will love looking at themselves (and you) as they grow. This IKEA STOCKHOLM is so simple but so pretty.

Lastly, I’d encourage you to consider the ceiling light in your room. Could it be easily changed? There are so many fun lights out there (and super affordable too) and they can totally change the room (or be that focal point I was talking about). The one here in this room cost us $50 from Home Depot but it is so much better looking than the 1970’s boob light that was up there prior.



I’ve pulled the links to a few of my favorite linens in my nursery space. All of these have been favorites since my first little was born (and can be seen somewhere in each of these photos).

Waffle Baby Blanket

American Baby Company Cotton Jersey Crib Sheets

Canvas Custom Name Banner

Solly Baby Fabric Wrap(s)

Lou Lou and Company Swaddle Blankets

Pottery Barn Luxe Trim Baby Blanket


I wanted to take one more second to point out a couple of smaller products that are must-haves for me in a nursery. Most of them live near/at the diaper changing station. I truly do not do my mom-ing without any of these.

I would absolutely recommend some sort of basket with all of your diaper changing necessities (or things you want close by during these times). The products you see here have lived in my basket/at my station for all three of my babies:

  • Tubby Todd All Over Ointment: This stuff can heal nearly anything (including eczema and cradle cap). It’s amazing.
  • Tubby Todd Everyday Lotion: For when you don’t need the really good stuff. I use this on me and baby.
  • Exergen Temporal Thermometer: Keep in mind that most recommend a digital rectal temperature for the first 3 months. But after that, these temporal ones are so handy (and this one has lasted nearly 5 years).
  • Water Wipes: I use diaper wipes for diaper changes, but I always have these close by too. In the event of rash, I’ll switch over to these. I also use them to wipe down stinky babies, eye goop, etc.
  • Boudreaux’s Butt Paste: This is the best. Hands down. Get this one.
  • BIBBS Pacifiers: I’ve always got about 10 extra pacis hiding in this basket. When you need one in the middle of the night, you need it!
  • OXO Wipe Dispenser: Don’t be cheap – get a decent one! I tried to be cheap the first time and it was a waste of money. We’ve since loved this one.
  • Gerber Flatfold Cloth Diapers (for burp cloths): Super absorbent, neutral, and cheap. I actually have a stack of these in the built-ins right next to the diaper set up.
  • Boppy Changing Pad Liners: If you have a basic changing pad as I do (aka not wipeable), these liners are great to lay on top of your changing pad cover. Then you aren’t constantly washing the covers and can instead just wash the liners.
  • VAVA Home Night Light: STOP. BUY THIS. This was a new purchase for me this time and it is perfect. It’s tiny, un-obnoxious, neutral, and is the perfect amount of light for middle of the night feeds and diaper changes. Did you hear me? Buy it.
  • MyBaby SoundSpa White Noise Machine: I know, there’s a million on the market. And we do upgrade to a Hatch when our kids are older. But we love this basic one. We have them all over the home, they get nice and loud, they have 6 different sounds and timers, and they’ve lasted us for years.

Enjoy this season of dreaming and planning friend. There is nothing like bringing baby home to the sweet space you’ve been curating for so long.



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About the Author

Lo Mansfield RN, MSN, CLC, is a specialty-certified registered nurse + certified lactation consultant in obstetrics, postpartum, and fetal monitoring who is passionate about families understanding their integral role in their own stories. She is the owner of The Labor Mama and creator of the The Labor Mama online courses. She is also a mama of four a University of Washington graduate (Go Dawgs), and is recently back in the US after 2 years abroad in Haarlem, NL.


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